A group of Republicans from all over Queens gathered on the steps of Borough Hall on Tuesday to protest what they believe was hate speech aimed at conservatives from Gov. Cuomo last week.
About a dozen Republicans representing organizations like the Queens Village Republican Club and the Rockaway Republican Club held anti-Cuomo signs and took turns speaking against his “kingdom” despite the snowfall and cold temperatures.
On Friday, Cuomo appeared on a public radio program and criticized “extreme conservatives” and their place in New York.
“Their problem is themselves. Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay?” Cuomo said. “Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the State of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
Queens Village Republican Club President Phil Orenstein, one of the rally’s organizers, demanded an apology from the governor in his opening remarks.
With signs behind him reading “Say no! to Cuomo!” and “No emperor in the Empire State,” he made clear conservatives have no plans of leaving New York anytime soon.
“We’re here to deliver a message to King Cuomo, who would banish anyone from his kingdom that has a different opinion than he,” Orenstein said. “We say ‘no’ to Gov. Cuomo, we will not leave. We demand an apology. We demand a retraction of your intolerant remarks.”
“This is unconscionable for an elected official to say something like this,” he continued.
Former City Council candidate and retired NYPD officer Joe Concannon of the Queens Village Republican Club also offered his voice to the rally, but he didn’t stop at criticizing just Cuomo; he believes the city government is out of touch as well.
“Could you imagine if a Republican picked a sector of society and told them to move out of state?” Concannon said. “The governor ... needs to recognize the fact that he is the governor of all the people in this state, whether or not they agree with him.”
Republicans at the state level have lashed out at the governor as well.
On Tuesday, New York Republican State Committee Chairman Ed Cox demanded an apology and state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long called Cuomo’s remarks “absolutely shameful” and “very vindictive and very mean spirited.”
The Cuomo Administration has backed off the governor’s controversial statement, calling his comments “distorted” in an open letter to the New York Post.
Such backtracking is not enough for former Rockaway Republican Club President Margaret Wagner.
“His words are terrifying. Listen to his statement, it was hate speech,” Wagner said. “He was targeting one group of people and he was antagonizing one group of people. Those words should never be allowed to be heard again.”
The GOP has not yet named a candidate to challenge Cuomo in November, though Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino is a possibility, and business mogul Donald Trump, a native of Jamaica Estates, is also reportedly considering a run.